poverty

Volunteers from L’Oreal Clarisonic net an apple tree at the Amy Yee Tennis Center Orchard to keep out pests.
KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld

There’s an old joke: What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple?

Finding half a worm.

For years, Heartland Regional Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in the small city of St. Joseph, Mo., had quietly sued thousands of its low-income patients over their unpaid bills.

But after an investigation by NPR and ProPublica prompted further scrutiny by Sen. Charles Grassley, the hospital overhauled its financial assistance policy late last year and forgave the debts of thousands of former patients.

Just across the train tracks from U.S. Route 321, in the town of North, S.C., nestled among mobile homes covered with red roses, sits the one-story brick campus of North Middle/High School.

Robert Gordon strides forward in the school's entryway to shake my hand. He's slim, dressed neatly in khakis, loafers and a striped polo shirt, with a pleather portfolio under one arm.

"It's been a stressful morning," he says, explaining that one middle school boy stabbed another with a pencil.

According to a report by the Vera Institute for Justice, there are more than 3,000 local jails in America, holding more than 730,000 people on any given day. Nancy Fishman, a project director at the Vera Institute, tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that jails "have impacted a huge number of Americans ... many more than are impacted by state prisons."

Seattle Food Rescue founder Tim Jenkins picks up food from Stock Box on James St.
KUOW Photo/Matt Martin

Up to 40 percent of food in the U.S. ends up in landfills. Seattle has been trying to tackle the issue with laws that require composting. But that's not enough for one local cyclist.

Tim Jenkins cuts sharply across tracks in the road as he jets through an intersection before the light changes. He has a child trailer attached to the back of his bike. But instead of carrying a small human, Jenkins hopes to fill the cart with food.

Let's begin with a choice.

Say there's a check in the mail. It's meant to help you run your household. You can use it to keep the lights on, the water running and food on the table. Would you rather that check be for $9,794 or $28,639?

It's not a trick question. It's the story of America's schools in two numbers.

He's a Bangladeshi who's been knighted by the Queen of England. A former accountant who left an executive position at Shell Oil to devote himself to the world's poorest. And when it comes to eliminating poverty, he may be the most influential man you've never heard of. Meet Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and head of a nongovernmental international development organization called BRAC. Today the University of Michigan honors Abed, who is 80, with its Thomas Francis Jr.

Terrell Walker lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Southeast Washington, D.C., with her 9-year-old and 2-year-old daughters.

Walker stopped paying her rent last September because, she says, her apartment is in horrible condition — and she is fighting her landlord's eviction threat in court.

But when tenants don't pay, landlords say they have less money to fix things up.

Every morning for weeks, Meagen Limes made the same phone call: to a court in Washington, D.C., to see if that day was the day she'd be evicted from her home.

Limes faced eviction because she couldn't pay rent on her three-bedroom apartment in Southeast Washington, where many of the city's poorest residents live.

It can sometimes take weeks before the marshals actually show up at your door, and Limes fully expected to be homeless any day.

Maya Swinehart weighs recovered food from the SPU campus kitchen.
KUOW Photo/Kate Walters

Food waste — we all do it. We put that bag of spinach in the back of the fridge and forget about it. We make a casserole big enough to feed an army and never eat the leftovers.

Now multiply that waste by thousands. That's what was happening at Seattle Pacific University. Nearly 100,000 pounds of food went uneaten every year. 

Maya Swinehart decided to do something about it.

Nearly one-third of households on SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, still have to visit a food pantry to keep themselves fed, according to data highlighted this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Oscar hopefuls strode down the red carpet on Sunday — walking advertisements for some of fashion's biggest names. But Chanel and Armani weren't the only winners that night.

A brand that targets more modest, socially conscious consumers got attention, too.

Emily Holt (left) and Kathleen Cromp staff the Welcome Desk at Meridian Center for Health. The clinic provides medical, dental, mental health and maternal support services under one roof.
KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

When it comes to providing care for people with mental illness, Washington ranks in the bottom five in the country.

The state has one of the highest percentages of adults with mental illness and one of the worst records for not getting them the treatment they need. One Seattle clinic wants to change that.

Steve Graham was No. 136 among people waiting Monday, February 22, 2016, for a chance to apply 110 low-income apartments.  'I'm keeping my fingers, toes and everything else crossed,' he said.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Steve Graham got in line late. His number was 136.

But he was optimistic about the chance of a lifetime: a shot at brand new, low-income housing in an increasingly unaffordable city.

“Number 8! Numero ocho!” came the call Monday night at El Centro de la Raza, a nonprofit in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. Only 110 units are available.

Ann Dornfeld / KUOW

On a recent morning at George T. Daniel Elementary School in Kent, the school bell had already rung. In the driveway, one minivan after another pulled up, spilling tardy students onto the sidewalk.

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